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Diggin' It 

Science geek leaves no stone unturned to track down animal kingdom.

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Compared to scientists who cure diseases, researchers who focus on the past can sometimes seem useless. But that doesn't stop Darin Croft from digging in the dirt to prepare him for tonight's lecture, Fossil Mammals From 14,000 Feet. "I think one of the reasons that people are interested in fossils is because it's a little bit like a treasure hunt or playing the lottery," says Croft, a mammalian paleontologist at Case Western Reserve University. "As far as why they're still relevant, fossils are one of the few things that can give us real insight into what happened in the past. If we want to have any chance of predicting the future, we have to understand the past." As he studied for his doctoral degree in Chicago, Croft became hooked on South American fossils in an extensive collection at the famed Field Museum. Ever since, he's regaled audiences with tales of animals that once lived in the higher altitudes of the central Andes Mountains in Chile and Bolivia. And the proof is in the geological formations, which can reveal the history of mammals in South America. "There aren't many places in the tropics to find fossils, unless you go to places that are up so high that you don't have plants. It's nice and dry, so we can see the rocks," says Croft, whose archeological digs have been chronicled by National Geographic. "Because of that, it helps fill in the gaps of the past." Learn more at 7 tonight in Murch Auditorium at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, 1 Wade Oval Drive. Tickets are $5 to $7. Call 216-231-4600 or visit www.cmnh.org.
Wed., April 23, 7 p.m., 2008

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